In order to gain some perspective from behind enemy lines for this weekend, we talked to Jay Burrous from Viva the Matadors.
1. Without a doubt, the 2018 Red Raider defense is the best Tech defense we’ve seen in a very long time, and is currently leading the conference in defensive scoring (albeit having already played Kansas and TCU and not the top offenses in the conference). What’s been the key to this season’s turnaround?
I’d attribute a lot of the success to depth, and continuity in the coaching staff. We’ll rotate 20-22 guys on defense each game, which is a far-cry from the days when we legit only played 11 guys. Where we’ve run into issues this year has been when we’ve faced good to great quarterbacks. Will Grier, Jordan Ta’amu, and D’Eriq King all had unbelievable games against this group. But, one consistent theme in 2018 is that we’re clamping down in the second half big-time. I’m not sure what happens in the locker room but we channel our inner-Alabama and shut people down.
As to Saturday, frankly, I have no clue where Brock Purdy falls in the “elite” quarterback category. My speculation is that he’s likely better than Ta’amu, worse than Grier, but in the same ballpark as King. So, by that assessment he should throw for 300ish yards, 3 TDs, and run for about 50 yards. Which, I’m sure you’d take in a heartbeat.
2. Quarterback Alan Bowman came back from his collapsed lung last week and didn’t seem to have missed a step. He’s been great so far this season, but how do you see the freshmen faring against arguably the best defense in the conference, and one that made Will Grier look silly a couple weeks ago?
Yeah, that’s a great question. You managed to stifle Pat Mahomes a few years ago, and that’s silly to think now.
I think a lot of Bowman’s success is predicated on his protection of the football, cool pocket presence, and his dependance on our receiver group to execute. Bowman has a good arm, but I wouldn’t call it great. So, if you’re blanketing coverage all over our receivers and Bowman has to consistently throw lasers into tight windows - I’ll admit, that worries me. But, if he has time in the pocket, and your DBs sleep on anyone in our receiver group, you’ll be in for a long long day. He’s more or less thrown for 300-400 yards on everyone and the only team that truly limited him was West Virginia. And, a lot of his struggles in that game fall on the receivers dropping tons of passes. So, we’ll see what happens Saturday, but I wouldn’t bet against Bowman doing his thing.
3. With having two weeks to prepare for this game, and following a team in West Virginia that runs a very similar scheme to Tech, Iowa State will be ready for the high-powered Tech offense. What do you think Kliff Kingsbury may look to add to the offense to break tendency and keep the Cyclone defense on its heels?
We like to use a tight end these days, and we’ll trot out an H-Back quite a bit. Neither of these guys have caught passes this year, and I’m convinced that Kingsbury is drawing something up to make this happen. Other than that, KeSean Carter has yet to run a go-route it feels like, and he’s got like 10.3 100m speed....so, maybe that happens?
I’m sure you’ll see quite a lot of power run in hopes that we can force you guys to drop a defensive back, that’s pretty exotic when you think about the Tech’s offenses for the last 20 years.
4. Who are the primary playmakers Cyclone fans will need to keep their eyes on on both the Tech offense and defense?
Well, Antoine Wesley is the best receiver that you’ve likely never heard of. He’s only on pace to have like 1,500 yards receiving this year and he’s been nothing short of a revelation for this offense. You’ll know who Ta’Zhawn Henry is by the end of Saturday. We love to get him open-field and for quick passes out of the backfield. Lastly, Riko Jeffers is the linbacker that doesn’t get as much love/hype as Jordyn Brooks and Dakota Allen, but he’s extremely disruptive.
5. David Montgomery is fully healthy and back to making defenders look silly, coming off a career high 189 yards against the Mountaineers. If you’re calling the defense, what’s your gameplan to slow him down.
I think David Gibbs is gonna sellout to stop the run, and force Purdy to win through the air. Success statistically with this approach would be to limit Montgomery to less than 80 yards, Purdy to less than 30 yards, and avoid any big plays. How this happens will be 6-man boxes, and press coverage on everyone that isn’t Hakeem Butler.
6. What does Texas Tech need to do to win this game? Same question for Iowa State.
We’ve got to score touchdowns early and often. If there was ever a game that jumping out to a 21-0 start would do us good, it’s this one. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been our calling card this year and we mostly start slow. So, given that, we’ve got to run the ball consistently for 4-5 yards per carry. Through the air, we’ll need Bowman to limit his mistakes and make some big plays when they’re there. i.e. we can’t afford for him to over through a deep ball touchdown, or to get greedy on his passes. If we execute, we can win this game.
Iowa State just needs to do what they did against West Virginia. Basically suffocate the passing game, limit big plays in the running game, and then methodically attack the defense with a balanced attack. Also, Brock Purdy needs to avoid his typical Freshman slump game this week because David Gibbs has a way with young quarterbacks. Should he play within the system though, I’m sure he’ll be fine.
7. Prediction time. Who do ya got?
I think this is going to be an ugly game, and there won’t be a lot of scoring. I’ll lean towards something like 28-24 Texas Tech? But, I’m only picking the Red Raiders because I’m a Red Raider. Should I actually be in Vegas, I’d likely take the Cyclones to cover.